by Jenny Needham
It was with great excitement that we set off for our long-awaited church weekend away at All Nations Christian College in Ware, Hertfordshire.
Around 30 of us descended on the beautiful historic college site - lateral flow tests done and ready to enjoy one another's company! Not only was it our first weekend away together for several years, but it was also the first time we would be able to sing and worship together since the lockdown restrictions were lifted.
The first evening was spent settling in and becoming familiar with the buildings and grounds. There was even a treasure hunt to aid the process! Children explored the corridors, we found out where everybody was staying, and we played a fun game of Mafia to round off the day.
Refreshed after a night's sleep, we arose to see what Saturday had in store - as our main day together.
We started the day with some all-age worship, and Ben introduced our theme: "Love God and love one another", based on John 13:34 (below). This was followed by a creative prayer time for all ages, ably planned and set up by Kaat. The prayer session was a very special time, and the presence of God was tangible. A few tears were shed!
As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
The afternoon was a little more challenging. A group of us keenly set off on a walk to explore the nearby canal and nature reserve. But, not long after we left, it started raining. We donned the yellow and blue ponchos from our welcome packs (we knew there must have been a reason for having them) and bravely continued!
Just when we were at the farthest point from the house, the heavens opened and we were very quickly drenched! We thought it would be a short shower and tried to brave it out under a tree, but it just continued on and on until we gave waiting and resigned ourselves to getting wet. In the end Johnny was goading the passing cars to splash him - because we couldn't get any wetter. We must have all looked ridiculous!!
We made it back - rather wetter than when we left - and managed to maintain good humour and a positive atitude despite being soaked. We can look back and laugh at the memory - so well done everyone.
The evening session was rather special. As a leadership team we felt that God particularly wanted us to experience His love, so we made some space for that to happen. Kaat started by sharing, using the example of her children and how they freely receive love. Then we made space for worship and ministry time; simply enjoying God together.
The presence of God came in a tangible way.
And the presence of God came! It was a wonderful time. Nobody wanted to leave or stop worshipping! There was a tangible atmosphere of love among us. What a wonderful way to mark a new season of being together! Thank you God!
On the Sunday morning Jenny shared from John 17: An invitation was issued; a heavenly invitation to go on a journey together: a journey to allow God to transform us into a people who would be one - just as Jesus and the Father are one. This would be challenge indeed, but an exciting one.
It is always a mark of a good weekend when the children don't want to go home - and they didn't! In fact, I don't think anyone wanted to go home! The college staff were brilliant; the grounds were amazing; the food was enjoyed by all; the company was special; and God showed up! What a weekend!
It was sad to leave that special moment, but we are all very much looking forward to the next season of our church life together. A great foundation of love has been laid - on which we can start to build. And, by God's grace, we will!